HOLLISTER VICTORY What does it mean?

Submitted by Kevin Williams on August 17, 2013 - 5:55pm

Image of Hollister store with stepsHOLLISTER VICTORY -- 
What does it mean? 

          In case you had not heard… WE WON!  

          But, so what?  Why does it matter?  I mean how many people -- particularly people who use wheelchairs -- care whether some  mall store that sells “SoCal-inspired clothing” to the younger set has steps or not?  I mean, don’t we have way more important things to think about?  Affordable, accessible health care?  High quality medical equipment?  Appropriate education for our kids?  Removing barriers to employment? 

          Really CCDC… how can this be so important?  I mean… C’MON… HOLLISTER?! 

           All those issues are important.  CCDC works hard on them too.  But this case is extremely important to CCDC too:  A store chain that did not exist until 2000, ten years after the ADA passed, designed and built stores that have two steps at its front entrances.  At a minimum, businesses should have learned that after the ADA was passed, they should make the store entrance wheelchair accessible.  Also, they should not be allowed to create inaccessible parts of the store.  Hollister thumbs it nose at the ADA:  It created inaccessibility where there was none. 

          Hollister stores have two steps at their front entrances.  Like in that picture above. These stores are in malls.  They are new.   Wheelchairs can’t levitate, so these entrances are not accessible to customers who use wheelchairs.  Hollister prides itself on its image and what it calls its “brand.”  Hollister management even testified that it would “destroy its brand” if these front entrances could not be used.  For their customers, Hollister wants you to feel like you just stepped into a California beach shanty.  That look and feel gives Hollister its identity, they say.


           But, Hollister told us, they provide customers who use wheelchairs access.  Just by a different way.  A separate way.  There are separate side “doors” over there on the right.  Oh, never mind that they look like window shutters instead of doors.  Never mind that there is really cool stuff up on the elevated platform up there.  And never mind that the porch juts five feet or more out in front of the store.  Trusts us, says Hollister, you can find those other “doors” and access the store, right? 

           Wrong.  There even is a tiny power assist door button there on the wall.  Can you see it?  It is not quite as obvious as shirtless dude up there, but, if you look real close…. 

          They even tried to argue the porch and the side shutters were all part of one “integrated” entrance.  Customers can just pick and choose which door they want to go in, right? 

           Wrong.  Why would the cool kids - “dudes” and “betty’s” Hollister calls them -- push that little button and wait for the door opener to push the door open?  Remember, they want to have that Hollister experience.  Stepping into the beach shanty is what Hollister wants you to experience.  Power assisted doors don’t really say, “beach shanty,” now, do they? 

           And, let’s not forget.  When we first told Hollister they were violating the ADA, they were locking the side shutters when the store was open.  That’s right.  The “accessible” entrance was locked.  Or Hollister blocked the "accessible" entrances with large merchandise tables.  When a customer using a wheelchair pushed the button, the door would open, and there would be a large table displaying clothes right in the way.  Hollister decided those were bad ideas after we sued them.  Their service counters weren’t accessible either.  They spent the money to bring those into compliance with the ADA too.  Afer we sued them.

          But those essential steps!   Those all-important steps.  Hollister was unwilling to address those steps.  What is so important about those steps?

           After four years of litigation in which Hollister filed every motion, launched every challenge, made every argument they could, and tried to justify why they would build barriers to access that were unnecessary.  But, finally, we have prevailed.  All those barriers must be removed.  “Dudes” and “betty’s” in wheelchairs, or the parents or friends and family members who use wheelchairs, will enter and exit Hollister stores just like everyone else and with everyone else.  CCDC member and plaintiff, Julie Farrar, whose daughter Lizzie was a huge Hollister fan, could roll right in the front door and shop the SoCal clothes with Lizzie and everyone else.

Image of Hollister store with porch without stepsThere.  That doesn’t look so bad, does it?

 (Truth is, about half of Hollister’ls stores look like this.  This makes it even harder to understand why they think the barriers they created are so important.)

 Do you really even notice a difference?

Does stepping up, and then down, really enhance your shopping eperience? 

           Many CCDC members and those of us in the disability community completely understand the importance of this issue.  Hollister sent us a message when it built those stairs:  We don’t want you!  Go elsewhere!  No matter if that message comes from a high-end clothing store, a dollar store, or a brand new Social Security office, CCDC will not stand for it.

           Plaintiffs won this case by filing a motion for summary judgment.  That means we asked the Court to look at the simple fact that Hollister built an inaccessible entrance and a part of its store clearly designed to entice customers into the store, and decide if that alone violates the ADA.  The Court agreed with us that the ADA prohibits any company from designing and constructing a part of its store that is open and usable by all customers except customers who use wheelchairs.  Even if the raised space was not an entrance, it is still a section of the store that customers can and do use.  The point here is if you build it -- you create something new that did not exist before --  and customers can access it, then ALL customers, including those of us who use wheelchairs, must be able to access it.

          With respect to Hollister’s all-important “brand” argument, in its order on summary judgment, the Court summed it up: 

Defendants have unnecessarily created a design for their brand that excludes people using wheelchairs from full enjoyment of the aesthetic for that brand. The steps to the center entrance are a legally unacceptable piece of that branding and violate Title III of the ADA. 

          Hollister has three years to make all of its 231 stores with steps accessible.  It cannot build inaccessible steps anymore. 

           Hollister may choose to appeal.  It has the right to do so.  But rather to continue this allegiance to its brand, isn’t it time Hollister got the ADA’s message?  This case sends that message to anyone who wants to create inaccessibility:  The ADA forbids such discrimination.




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